Want to distro hop, but which one?


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Thread: Want to distro hop, but which one?

  1. #1
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    Want to distro hop, but which one?

    I have been a Linux user on and off since the days of Redhat 5.1. About 3 1/2 years ago i switched to Linux as my main OS and only use XP/Vista to play games. I have been using Kubuntu for about 3 1/2 years and really love it. I can't believe how good it works. So, pretty much it is my old faithful and will stay on my desktop. I have a laptop also and use it for mainly experimental purposes and want to try another distro on it(it is currently running Kubuntu x64).

    I have read up on a lot of the distros out there in the last couple of days and am not sure what I should try. Here is a loose set of requirements that I am looking for...

    • Want to be able to choose what packages to install during installation or later. I don't want a whole bunch of packages preinstalled for me.

    • A good package management system(i.e handles dependencies), preferable apt based, but I can be flexible with this if I have to be

    • Want to be able to install KDE 3.x during install but just the bare minimum packages and then once the install is finished I will decide what I want.

    • Want to be able to install fluxbox as an alternate WM when I feel like using something minimal

    • Want to use something that is 64bit CPu compatible



    So basically I am confused

    Slackware - I have tried in the past but I didn't like the fact that it used older software by default and did not come with a very good package manager.

    SUSE - I have tried it in the past. The hardware detection is good, but I don't like YAST. Also I don't like who they are friends with now

    ...And many more

    What should I go for? Thanks for any help.
    My Systems:
    Custom Desktop: Kubuntu 8.04.1 x86 + 2.6.24 kernel
    Thinkpad T61p: Debian SID x64 + 2.6.26 kernel

  2. #2
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    **cheers for Debian**

    I feel about Debian as you do Kubuntu, but really why not try a few? You can partition your disk such that you can install many different distros at the same time (without overwriting) and see which you like.

    As for your specifics...

    • Download the Net-Install version (will fit on a CD, or flash drive) and this will install only the base files required to boot you to a prompt. It will auto-run tasksel which is designed to mass install packages for a type (laptop, media desktop, server, etc.), but you can just cancel it and keep the bare-bones system to choose which packages you want.
    • Debian is the original distro to use apt-get, so you will feel at home there. There is always dselect and aptitude, but I prefer apt-get personally.
    • Apt-get will install required dependencies for any package in the repository, and suggest others (like docs, plugins, etc.). If it auto installs something you don't like, you can apt-get remove it (apt will warn if you are breaking a dependency).
    • "apt-get install fluxbox" - its really that simple.
    • There is a 64-bit Debian install (typing from it atm).


    Lastly, to address your concern of old packages with Slackware. Debian has 3 main options: stable, testing, and unstable (they name each from Toy Story characters). Stable will be old software, but old is not always bad. There are many prerequisites that must be met before packages make it to the stable release. Ideally, if you are running a server that you will not use as a desktop - then stable is the most secure. For a desktop, I'd run either testing or unstable. Don't be timid with the wording, I've run the unstable version (which always keeps the name Sid) on my desktop for years and I can count on one hand the amount of times they slipped up and released a package that actually was unstable. If you run Sid, you will have the bleeding edge as you can usually find daily updates.

    So to summarize that mess... since you want to use newer software, give the Sid version a whirl. The way I find it to be least painful is to do the net install, and change /etc/apt/sources.list to sid. Do a "apt-get update && apt-get dist-upgrade". After that finishes, start picking your packages. Enjoy~
    "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect."

    -Mark Twain

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Coder
    I have been a Linux user on and off since the days of Redhat 5.1. About 3 1/2 years ago i switched to Linux as my main OS and only use XP/Vista to play games. I have been using Kubuntu for about 3 1/2 years and really love it. I can't believe how good it works. So, pretty much it is my old faithful and will stay on my desktop. I have a laptop also and use it for mainly experimental purposes and want to try another distro on it(it is currently running Kubuntu x64).

    I have read up on a lot of the distros out there in the last couple of days and am not sure what I should try. Here is a loose set of requirements that I am looking for...

    • Want to be able to choose what packages to install during installation or later. I don't want a whole bunch of packages preinstalled for me.

    • A good package management system(i.e handles dependencies), preferable apt based, but I can be flexible with this if I have to be

    • Want to be able to install KDE 3.x during install but just the bare minimum packages and then once the install is finished I will decide what I want.

    • Want to be able to install fluxbox as an alternate WM when I feel like using something minimal

    • Want to use something that is 64bit CPu compatible



    So basically I am confused

    Slackware - I have tried in the past but I didn't like the fact that it used older software by default and did not come with a very good package manager.

    SUSE - I have tried it in the past. The hardware detection is good, but I don't like YAST. Also I don't like who they are friends with now

    ...And many more

    What should I go for? Thanks for any help.
    You don't seem like you're really looking for that much of a change, so I suggest Sidux, a live CD that installs well, and is based on Debian Sid.

    Apt means Debian-based, so I'd go here, and select "debian" in the "based-on" dialogue.

    Actually, this page can probaby give you all the help you need. Also, there used to be a linux distro comparision chart in wikipedia.
    Last edited by blackbelt_jones; 09-09-2008 at 07:59 PM.

  4. #4
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    @ trilarian -

    Thanks for the very detailed response. One thing I failed to mention is that I am looking for a distro I can tinker with a bit and learn more of the inner working of Linux without spending all my time with it. Kubuntu has given me a distro that I can just drop in and start working with, which is the most important thing, but I want to start playing with a distro that allows me to research and learn a lttle bit more, if you know what I mean.

    I am not a noob to Unix as I did my whole computer programming degree using UNIX extensively, hence my instant interest in Linux when I first heard of it years ago. I have forgotten a lot about it though but once I read I remember again

    Anyways, you say Debian SID. I went through the Debian install manual a little bit today. I was worried about unstable branch, but if it really isn't unstable and has all the latest packages, I will try that. From your response it looks like I have full control to install the packages that I want?

    That is true, I can burn a bunch of distros and try them out, but I am using a regular home based ISP to download my distros and they suck. They capped my downloads last month(no official notice, just couldn't all of a sudden download anything big), so I can't download too many ISOs. I will try though. Also each distro is a learning experience in itself, so I want to make sure if I spend time learning a distro, that I choose one that is truly great and I can use the skills somewhere else. I just don't have as much time as I used to, so I want to make sure I learn a good one. Can't go wrong with Debian i guess

    What do you and others think of Gentoo? Seems very intense. I understand that all the packages are compiled. Is this extreme in the other direction? Should I spend time learning portage and Gentoo in general?

    PS - Whats with using Toystory? Couldn't they have used a better movie like Star Wars etc?
    Last edited by The Coder; 09-10-2008 at 12:42 PM.
    My Systems:
    Custom Desktop: Kubuntu 8.04.1 x86 + 2.6.24 kernel
    Thinkpad T61p: Debian SID x64 + 2.6.26 kernel

  5. #5
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    @Blackbelt - Thanks man. I will look into Sidux. I saw it mentioned vaguely, but never looked into it. I am saying apt/Debian based since I don't know a better package management system, other than maybe Portage. I don't think RPM based distros are as good, am I wrong?

    Basically I want to be able to have control over whats installed on the system, so that I don't have to go in afterward and remove the packages I don't want(like in *buntu). I also want to tinker with something and learn a little more about Linux and it's inner workings.

    BTW - I have read your posts regarding Fluxbox. They were good posts, especially about the menu file. I agree, Fluxbox is really cool. I use KDE when I want a full DE, but use Flux when I am in that minimal mood
    Last edited by The Coder; 09-10-2008 at 12:42 PM.
    My Systems:
    Custom Desktop: Kubuntu 8.04.1 x86 + 2.6.24 kernel
    Thinkpad T61p: Debian SID x64 + 2.6.26 kernel

  6. #6
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    You could try Sabayon Linux 3.5 x64 you can pick and choose up front during the install desktop, and software.

    ed

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Coder
    @Blackbelt - Thanks man. I will look into Sidux. I saw it mentioned vaguely, but never looked into it. I am saying apt/Debian based since I don't know a better package management system, other than maybe Portage. I don't think RPM based distros are as good, am I wrong?
    It's conventional wisdom, but whenever I asked "why is rpm not as good?" I never got an answer that struck me as convincing. Most of the answers I got harken back to the days yast and yum, when I guess you had to hunt down every package individually.

    I like the directness of the apt-get command line option, but the main reason why I spend most of my time at the debian-based end of the pool is the sheer enormity of the apt repositories. Lots and lots and lots of software is easily available though apt, and more software means less dependancy problems.

    If you like control, I feel tempted to ask you if you're sure that you gave YAST a fair shake. I always felt that YAST gave me the most options when it came to fine-tuning my package selections, although that was never very important to me. I'd also note that I did try opensuse11, and yast has lost much of its notorious slowness, although the installation is now preconfigured, and the repositories opensuse sends you to by default can be just horrible at peak times. Sub-dialup downloading speeds!
    Last edited by blackbelt_jones; 09-10-2008 at 02:45 PM.

  8. #8
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    @blackbelt_jones -

    I read one person say that when they were updating their software using a RPM package management system, their machine was slowed down to a crawl and they had to wait till the updates were over. Not sure how true or false it is.

    In regards to YAST. I admired YASTs desire to put everything into one place making it easy for a user to upgrade packages and such, but the main thing about YAST that I didn't like was that I felt it was unintuitive to me. I could never find what option I wanted to use, I always felt confused by it. I don't know if it was the wording for the options they choose or it was just me, but I felt like I was always choosing the wrong options. I never felt this way with pure apt-get on the command line or using a frontend to apt-get like Adept. So this makes me stay away from SUSE. I think I will stay away from SUSE for now.

    Right now the options I am considering are: Debian SID, Sidux, Sabayon, and Gentoo.

    Debian SID vs Sidux - what is the difference really? Both use the unstable branch, what does Sidux add? Why not just go for pure Debian SID?

    Sabayon - i glanced at their homepage a while back and it seemed like it had every package in the world preloaded on the machine by default. This really turned me off to it. Has this changed?

    Gentoo - Looks just as interesting as Debian SID right now. If I choose this distro, I will probably choose the Stage 2 install. It seems to have a real nice and detailed handbook. I just read a review by a Linux newbie who tried it by just reading the guide carefully and he was successful with it. In addition he learned a lot about linux. I have a real powerful laptop at the moment(thinkpad t61p Core 2 Duo 2.5Ghz 6MB cache, 4GB RAM, 7200RPM drive ), so compiling shouldn't be real horrible, could be kind of fun
    My Systems:
    Custom Desktop: Kubuntu 8.04.1 x86 + 2.6.24 kernel
    Thinkpad T61p: Debian SID x64 + 2.6.26 kernel

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Coder
    Debian SID vs Sidux - what is the difference really? Both use the unstable branch, what does Sidux add? Why not just go for pure Debian SID?
    There is no way to install Debian sid directly. You have to install a stable or testing system and use the "apt-get dist-upgrade" command to migrate to sid. Sidux is a way to install a sid system without having to go through this process. However, if you don't like a bunch of preinstalled packages, you're probably not going to like Sidux. The Sidux installation basically takes the contents of the Live CD and dumps it on your hard drive. For most people, this is great. It gives you fully-functioning desktop system very quickly. I've heard the installation takes something like 10 minutes.

    I would second the recommendation to get a Debian netinstall CD. If you uncheck all the tasks (i.e. Desktop Environment, Laptop, Standard System) it will only install a base system to which you can add whatever you desire. Also, if the prospect of running unstable scares you, I would recommend running the testing branch.
    Quote Originally Posted by trilarian
    I've run the unstable version (which always keeps the name Sid) on my desktop for years and I can count on one hand the amount of times they slipped up and released a package that actually was unstable.
    In nearly two years on the same installation, I can count on one finger the number of times an update in testing has been screwed up. The fix involved using "touch" to create an empty file that a script was looking for that didn't exist on my system. That's pretty good reliability in my book.
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  10. #10
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    @ paj12 -

    Thanks for that great info on Debian, I didn't know that you couldn't use Sid directly. I also didn't know Sidux installed a bunch of packages by default. So basically Sidux is out, since if I want a system up and running quickly I can use *buntu which I am quite familiar with. So if I go the debian route I will just install Debian testing and upgrade to SID(I am not scared of unstable anymore from the comments made here); I am looking for a more purist approach.

    So now it comes down to Debian SID vs. Gentoo....

    What do you guys think of Gentoo? I am real curious about your opinions. Thanks.
    My Systems:
    Custom Desktop: Kubuntu 8.04.1 x86 + 2.6.24 kernel
    Thinkpad T61p: Debian SID x64 + 2.6.26 kernel

  11. #11
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    You nailed it paj12 - the few times (like 2 or 3 max) that an update broke something it was looking for a file foo.bar.0 and I had a file foo.bar. I just made a symbolic link and it was ready to go. In all honesty, I think the last time I did that was almost 2 years ago. They have come a long way in error checking before releasing the packages.

    As for Gentoo vs. Debian - try them both. They are very similar and if the compiling nature of Gentoo is turning you on, you can always compile in Debian - with apt - by adding "source" to the string to download and compile instead of installing the pre-compiled .deb. Read up on it here. Compiling yourself *can* give you a speed boost, but its not a hard rule or even a major difference in most cases. For me, I liked the idea of having the .deb to install or if I wanted to compile the option was there, but it wasn't a system wide compile requirement.

    I have found the .debs to be sufficient for most purposes. On a rare occasion, I'll go the source route - think I did that when doing my MythTV install. I mean does it really matter if something loads in 10ms vs 30ms? Now on a very large program, it may be worth the effort - that is the beauty, always a choice that the USER can make and not the PROVIDER.

    Also, I don't think I've had to go outside of "apt-cache search" to locate a program in a long, long time - the repository is huge and I get 1MB/s+ download speeds on average. I have zero complaints on Debian... even if I am a bit biased.
    "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect."

    -Mark Twain

  12. #12
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    So now it comes down to Debian SID vs. Gentoo....

    What do you guys think of Gentoo? I am real curious about your opinions. Thanks.
    Going back to your original post, either one fits your criteria.

    Want to be able to choose what packages to install during installation or later. I don't want a whole bunch of packages preinstalled for me.
    Debian can do this if you uncheck all the boxes on the task selection screen during install. Gentoo can definitely do this.
    A good package management system(i.e handles dependencies), preferable apt based, but I can be flexible with this if I have to be
    Take your pick. Emerge and apt are both excellent package managers. Debian may have a slight edge, not because of apt, but because of their rigorous policy for packaging software.
    Want to be able to install KDE 3.x during install but just the bare minimum packages and then once the install is finished I will decide what I want.
    You can do this in Debian. After you've installed a base system, run "apt-get install xorg kde-core". I'm sure Gentoo has a similar command.
    Want to be able to install fluxbox as an alternate WM when I feel like using something minimal
    Like trilarian said, "apt-get install fluxbox". In Gentoo, it's "emerge fluxbox"
    Want to use something that is 64bit CPu compatible
    Check and check.
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  13. #13
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    I think both Debian and Gentoo are a good choice, I will add one thing about Gentoo though. I think if you are looking for a OS a bit more custom to your system then Gentoo has a little edge over Debian. You can totally customize Gentoo using the USE flags. Also Gentoo will help you learn a bit more of the inner workings. But on the other hand if time is a factor then Debian will take less of time to setup.

  14. #14
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    Slackware - I have tried in the past but I didn't like the fact that it used older software by default and did not come with a very good package manager.
    Older software by default is stable and proven software by default. This is the reputation of Slackware. Before it goes in its bullet-proof. BTW Slackware has a very good package managment system and there are several 3rd party ones that do a very capable job, even to resolving dependencies if you decide to download the newest and latest unproven software. It's all about "Your" control.
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnT
    Older software by default is stable and proven software by default.
    Aye, this is why I enjoy having 3 options of Debian - and do run the Stable release on any server/firewall. Desktop... well... I want to play with new things and that is what the firewall is for anyway right? Additionally, I got in the habit of saving all important stuff to the server and share that to the desktop. That way, if I have to hose the Desktop - I only wasted a bit of time to reinstall and copy over config files.

    Lots of options - and in the end none are truly better than the other. It comes down to what do you want to accomplish and personal taste.
    "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect."

    -Mark Twain

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